The Grace of God is Great Enough

Canto XI

"Of more & of less where God doth rule keep,"
That gentle one said, "there is no regard;
For everyone there his full pay doth reap
Whether little or much be his reward.
For the gentle Chieftain is not cheap,
Whether he dealeth mild or hard;
He lavisheth gifts as draughts from the deep,
Or, in a gulf, gushers that never retard.
One's franchise is large who in faith is forward
Toward him who doth man's sin rebuff;
No better bliss from him's harbored,
For the grace of God is great enough.

It would seem that both Jesus' parable of the laborers in the vineyard and the Pearl Maiden's argument are meant to address the word of comfort two ways. The "poor men" (those who, as the maiden herself, have nothing to show from life) always, we are told, their part possess, through they come last and are the least. That's a comfort not to be found in this world.

But also, to those who (as the Jeweler) fell that their suffering amounts to work in the vineyard for which they are owed, there comes the word: "you've jeoparded nothing. Each one is fully paid. The gentle Chieftain is not cheap. He lavisheth gifts. No better bliss from you is harbored." And this, too, is a comfort not found in this world--the guarantee that one will never be cheated.

And yet Jesus observed: "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you" (Mt. 21:31). The poor come in gladly; but those of us who righteously have been twisting and toiling through the day's fierce heat, we would rather retain our grief--with its sense of "offended deserving"--than come to the comforts of grace on a par with tax collectors and prostitutes.

Yet let us take care to define these "poor" who come in; the line may not fall where we think it does. We have been careful in our day to school our minorities and disadvantaged in the consciousness-raising of "offended deserving" and "standing up for your rights." These, then, do not come as "the poor in spirit." No, they come as we do, claiming and even demanding their right to God's comfort and restitution. Are there any left who come in the true poverty of "Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner"? That word is not often heard among us anymore.


"But enough now thou speakest, me to berate,
That I my penny wrongly took here;
Thou sayest that I came too late,
Unworthy am to be a peer.
Where knewest thou ever a person abate--
Ever so holy in his prayer--
Who never forfeited in some way
The meed some times of heaven's cheer?
And always more often the older they were
They left the right and from it did slough.
Mercy and grace had them then to steer,
For the grace of God is great enough.


"But enough of grace hath the innocent.
As soon as they are born, by line,
In the water of baptism they descend;
Then brought they are to work the vines.
Anon, the day of dark intent
In droop of death makes them decline
Who ne'er wrought wrong ere thence they went.
Then payeth his help the Lord divine;
They did his behest as they were assigned.
Why shouldn't their work be accepted as such?
Yes, and they be paid at first and in fine?
For the grace of God is great enough.


"Enough 'tis known that mankind great
First knew bliss untouched by blight;
Our forefather then did it forfeit
Through the apple he did bite.
In his damnation came our fate
To die in dole outside delight,
Then wend our way to hell of hate,
Therein to dwell without respite.
But thereon quickly things came right;
Rich blood ran on a rood so rough
And precious water at that plight;
The grace of God waxed great enough.


"Enough there waxed out of that well--
Blood and water from broad wound--
The blood bought us from bale of hell
And delivered us from death second.
The water is baptism, truth to tell--
Following the javelin so grimly ground--
That washes away the guilt so fell
With which Adam us in death hath drowned.
Now is there nought in this world round
'Twixt us and bliss but what He did rebuff
And what's restored on that hallowed ground;
And the grace of God is great enough.

Copyright (c) 1983